Sounding the Alarm on Horse Soring
This week, The HSUS rolled out a new television advertisement calling on lawmakers to crack down on the illegal, unethical, and inhumane practice of horse “soring” – where trainers injure the feet and legs of horses by mechanical or chemical means to force them to perform an exaggerated high-stepping gait (known as the “Big Lick”) at competitive shows. The ads started running in Kentucky this week, and urge viewers to call on Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul to support the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, which has 51 cosponsors and was introduced by their Republican colleague Kelly Ayotte. (The House bill, introduced by Kentucky Republican Ed Whitfield and Tennessee Democrat Steve Cohen, has a remarkable 268 cosponsors.) We’ll be expanding the reach of these advertisements to other media markets around the country in the coming weeks.
Sen. Paul sounded off recently in a news story and said he was considering introducing a companion to Tennessee Republican Marsha Blackburn’s pro-soring bill, H.R. 4098, which would put authority to oversee the practice of soring under the control of the very people engaging in criminal conduct. The Blackburn bill is sham reform, and it would make enforcement of the current weak rules even more difficult.
Sen. Ayotte’s bill, on the other hand, would end the failed industry self-policing system; ban the show-ring use of chains, stacks, and excessively heavy shoes (devices that are part and parcel of the soring process); and increase penalties for violators.
Sen. Paul would only bring shame on himself to stand in the way of legislation to root out this form of illegal, malicious and intentional cruelty to horses. It’s my hope that he sees that the industry is attempting to deny that abuses are widespread and to protect the “Big Lick” scofflaws. No one should be able to get away with burning chemicals on the legs of horses to cause them pain and misery in order to win ribbons for themselves.
The entire issue was thrust into the spotlight after a 2011 HSUS investigation into Tennessee walking horse trainer Jackie McConnell’s (no relation to the Senator) stable in Collierville, Tenn. The investigator recorded horses being whipped, kicked, shocked in the face and intentionally burned with caustic chemicals. The new commercial shows footage from this investigation.
McConnell is not just one bad apple. He was a leader in the industry and a Hall of Fame trainer, and insiders have said that just about everybody in the “Big Lick” segment of the industry is abusing horses. If they don’t, they feel the other trainers will have an unfair advantage. The rot within the industry has set in for decades, and they are fighting this effort to clean out the decay and criminal subculture.
If they weren’t doing it, why would they fear the PAST Act? And why are they saying the PAST Act would destroy their industry? If there were just a handful of bad operators, they would have nothing to worry about.
The PAST Act is endorsed by the American Veterinary Medical Association, every state veterinary medical association (including the Kentucky Veterinary Medical Association), the American Association of Equine Practitioners, and the American Horse Council, along with a host of other national animal protection, veterinary and horse industry organizations.
It is noteworthy that such a diverse and powerful array of organizations have come together to call for a legislative solution to a problem – and some of these groups disagree on other welfare issues, such as horse slaughter. But all of them see soring as torture, and agree that the law must speak and it must be enforced.
Watch the ad below, and then take action by contacting your legislators here